Tourist attractions in Entebbe – Uganda
What are the top things to do in Entebbe?
Tourist attractions in Entebbe : Entebbe is one of the most naturally beautiful towns in Uganda. It is part of Wakiso District and is found 40 kilometers away from Kampala city. The town is surrounded by Lake Victoria, lush green vegetation and great landscapes giving it a cool temperature and natural charm. Despite its small size, Entebbe is a key town in Uganda with important historical roles. Entebbe used to be the administrative capital of Uganda before the role was shifted to Kampala after independence of Uganda in 1962. It is for this reason that the town is relatively well organized and built with great attractions considering its size. Entebbe still hosts the official state house, one of the largest UN logistics bases in the world, government offices and the only international airport in Uganda.
Entebbe town is a place you must visit or explore in more detail if you have spare time especially either a day before or after doing a Uganda safari. The town offers so many attractions that never bore even those who have lived there for decades. It is a town where you can spot amazing wildlife and visit some of the best beaches and hotels Uganda has to offer. Entebbe is arguably a better place to stay in than Kampala city for those who want a clean town, cool temperature, clean air, a serene atmosphere and less crimes. Below are the some of the key facts about Entebbe before discussing the major tourist attractions: –
- Entebbe is found on the northern section of Lake Victoria – the largest lake in Africa.
- Entebbe has a population of about 70,000 people.
- In the Luganda language, the word “Entebbe” means to sit on a chair. The town was named Entebbe because it was where the local Baganda chiefs sat to resolve legal cases.
- Entebbe has Uganda’s largest and only international airport. Because of that, most visits to Uganda start and end in Entebbe.
- Entebbe has the official residence and office of the head of state. It is therefore the main centre of power
- One of the Tarzan movies was shot at the Entebbe botanical gardens.
- Entebbe is one of Uganda’s best birding destinations. The botanical gardens and Mabamba swamp are the first places a birder should check out while on a birding tour in Uganda thus Tourist attractions in Entebbe.
- Entebbe town has the oldest golf course in Uganda and East Africa. It was established as early as 1900.
- Entebbe has some of the most amazing beaches in Uganda and the world when you factor in the amazing Ssese islands.
- Entebbe became famous in July 1976 when a team of Israeli commandos stormed the airport and rescued over 100 hostages (mainly Jews) who had been kidnapped while on board an Air France jet. The Ugandan dictator Idi Amin supported the hijackers.
- To reach Entebbe town from the airport, you will need to hire an airport taxi for about 20,000 Uganda Shilling. While in town, there are three modes of transport – by boda boda, special hire or public minibuses.
- Getting decent accommodation in Entebbe for long term use is not easy and can be quiet expensive. This is partly because of the large UN personnel living and working in the town.
Tourist activities in Entebbe town;
Visit Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is the largest fresh water lake in Africa. It is also the second largest in the world after only Lake Baikal in Siberia and it is one of the leading tourist attractions in Uganda and Entebbe is arguably the best place to explore it. Lake Victoria surrounds the town on almost all sides. There are several activities that can be done around the lake including swimming, fishing, boat cruises, canoeing, island hopping or simply relaxing by the lake shores.
Visit the Entebbe Sailing Club or go for a sunset boat cruise
Entebbe has one of the oldest sailing clubs in Uganda. The club is busy over the weekend and you will spot several dhow looking boats floating out into the lake with a number of revelers. The Club organizes sporting competitions to reward the fastest boats. Entebbe Sailing club is a perfect place to go with your friends or family for a truly amazing weekend. Sunset boat cruises are also organized with food and drinks starting from the Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre all the way to some of the Ssese Islands.
Explore the beaches in Entebbe
As a town surrounded by water, Entebbe has arguably the best and most popular beaches in Uganda. Some of the beaches include white sand beach, Sports beach, Lido beach, Aero beach, Imperial resort beach and Spena beach among many others. The hotels and resorts in Entebbe also have their own beaches like Anderita and Botanical beach hotels. On weekend, these beaches are full of revelers from Kampala and other nearby towns. Almost all the beaches have loud music playing in the background while some organize boat cruises on the lake in different shifts for revellers.
Swimming in these beaches is not 100% safe (because of the possibility of catching bilharzia) but it is a great way of mingling with the locals and seeing how they go about their daily lives. Despite the obvious poverty, Ugandans love to enjoy life. Ugandan’s are very friendly and you will find this out while visiting one of the beaches. If you are afraid of swimming, you can just go and relax by the beach and swim in one of the high end hotels in town.
Visit the Entebbe Botanical Gardens
These gardens were founded around 1901. It is believed that one of the original Tarzan movies were filmed here. The gardens are a popular hangout place for locals and tourists who want a quiet place for relaxation and experiencing nature. In terms of biodiversity, it is one of the best within central Uganda. The Entebbe Botanical gardens are considered important learning centres by academics within and outside Uganda. You can visit the centre for plant identification and birdwatching. Expect to also spot Colobus and Ververt monkeys. The gardens are also home to several species of birds and if you are a birder, this is the perfect place to start from.
If you are planning to visit the gardens, expect to find Guides at the entrance. There is an entrance fee but the Guides will ask for a separate fee. The Guides know all the tree, bird and animal species. They will take you to the different zones of the gardens ending with a visit to the beach on the shores of Lake Victoria. The species of birds to look out for are African Open-billed Stork, Black headed Gonolek, Black-headed herons, Common Squacco, Grey headed gull, Hammerkop, Long tailed Cormorant, Orange weavers, Red- chested Sunbird, Swamp Flycatcher, Verreaux’s eagle owls, Yellow billed duck, Giant and Pied Kingfishers. It is recommended that you visit these gardens on week days to enjoy a more private tour thus Tourist attractions in Entebbe.
Visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (The Entebbe Zoo)
Popularly k has become one of the best educational centres for wildlife in the African continent. The centre was opened in 1952 for rescued animals before later turning into a zoo. The Centre still helps rehabilitate animals rescued from poachers before their release back to the wild when possible. The Centre has an amazing collection of wildlife and beautiful scenery. It is a quick place to go if you cannot visit Uganda’s national parks. Here you will see De Braza monkeys, baboons, hyenas, pythons, lions, ostriches, antelopes, leopards, buffaloes and chimpanzee among many other creatures. Over 121 species of birds can be sported at the Centre including the African fish eagle, Hammerkops, sunbirds, Giant Kingfishers and the Great Blue Turaco.
Most of the animals are held in spacious areas which resemble their natural surroundings. You will not only see but learn how the animals communicate, play, eat and live together. The Centre strives to educate visitors about wildlife conservation and their importance to prosperity and the ecosystem. After seeing all the animals in the zoo for about 2 hours, you can go down to the beach and take a swim or relax with the family as you enjoy camel and donkey rides.
As already noted earlier, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre is one of the most visited places in Uganda and is a favourite learning place for schools and other educational institutions. The Centre receives generous funding from donors and institutions around the world enabling it to expand and put together an excellent team of caretakers. Visiting the centre costs $15 for international visitors and about 10,000 for Ugandans. For those interested in a more comprehensive visit, they can opt for the Keeper for a Day Experience, the behind the Scenes Tour and the Chimpanzee Close-up experience.
The Reptile Sanctuary
Visiting the Uganda Reptiles Village is excellent for those who are fascinated with reptiles. The sanctuary takes care of all kinds of reptiles including crocodiles, turtles, tortoises, lizards, chameleons and snakes (vipers, cobras, mambas and puff adders). Most of these reptiles where rescued and rehabilitated after being found in people’s homes and gardens. After the Centre receives a call from someone about spotting a reptile in their compound, they send staff to go and pick them up. When their numbers increase, some are released back into the wild.
The staff at the sanctuary will help educate you about these often misunderstood creatures. The Reptiles village is located a short drive away from the town. You stop at a small town called abaita-ababiri as you head towards Kampala. From abaita, you leave the main highway and follow the 4km dusty road to the Reptile village. Entrance to the Reptile sanctuary is 15,000 Uganda Shillings at the time of writing this article. The Entrance fee includes a Guide to take you around the site.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
This sanctuary is home to more than 40 orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued from within and outside Uganda. The young chimps are brought at the Centre for rehabilitation and to start a new life in a beautifully forested island. Here they are looked after by some of the best caretakers and researchers. To reach the Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary, one would need to take a boat or public ferry to the island. Once in the island you have an opportunity to observe the chimps feeding from an enclosure before retreating back to the large forest. Visitors to the island can also feed the chimps or volunteer for a while in the facility. There are flights arranged from Entebbe International Airport to the sanctuary at a cost.
Entebbe Golf Club
This 18 Hole Golf Course is the oldest in Uganda. It was founded as early as 1901 close to the shores of Lake Victoria. It is a large golf course that offers a unique feeling of privacy and serenity even on busy weekends. This gold course remains green throughout the year because of the cool weather from the lake and good rains throughout the year. At the entrance, you may see a sign post stating that playing is for only members but tourists are allowed in at an affordable fee. Golfing is now becoming very popular among the middle class in Uganda and has received wide media coverage. Because of that, you will meet some of Uganda’s top businessmen and the middle-class citizens playing side by side. You can learn a lot about Uganda, the politics and opportunities available while playing and hanging out at the club. Apart from the golf course, the club also has a basketball court, a cricket oval and a basketball court. Members can also play snooker, darts and badminton thus Tourist attractions in Entebbe.
Visit Entebbe’s main Markets
The best way to learn about a new place and the local people is to visit the main markets. Entebbe has two main markets. One is close to the first shell petrol station from the Kampala side and the other is in Kitoro. There are also smaller markets opened on specific days of the week such as the one close to Manyago. I shouldn’t forget to mention the Nakiwogo Market. The Nakiwogo market is a beehive of activity and the best place to watch vendors sell off their products or offload goods from the different Ssese Islands. While in all Entebbe markets, you can buy Uganda’s tasty tropical fruits and foods from a kiosk. If you have nothing to buy, you can just choose a place to sit and observe the local Ugandans hustling to make ends meet. You might even get a chance to hear some of the most current gossip.
Mabamba bay wetland is found along the shores of Lake Victoria. This extensive marshland covers an area of 16,498 hectares and consists of mainly of Miscunthus sp along the main bay and papyrus towards the clearer waters of Lake Victoria. A narrow water channel extends inside the swamp allowing for birders to visit the inside by boat. The most popular bird species sighted here is the amazing shoebill stork. The Mabamba wetland sanctuary is considered the best place to spot Shoebill storks in Uganda. These elusive birds are often found standing on drifting papyrus islands as they fed on insects and frogs. Apart from the Shoebill storks and other birds, swamp antelopes (Sitatunga) thrive on these swamps.
Sport Fishing on Lake Victoria
Uganda is home to the largest fresh water fish in Africa – the Nile Perch. Entebbe provides one of the best and most organized fishing areas in Uganda. You can hire a boat and go out with your equipment for an adventure of a lifetime with the possibility of a big catch to show your buddies and fellow anglers. Some of the hotels and resorts can help you acquire fishing gear and a professional angler to take you to the best fishing spots while on a whole day sport fishing trip in Uganda.
Visit the Ssese Islands
The Ssese Islands are a collection of 84 Islands in Lake Victoria. Only 43 have constant human presence. All the islands offer pristine tropical vegetation with amazing wildlife. The Ssese Islands offer some of the best fishing spots in Uganda. So prepare for a whole day of fun, fishing, swimming, canoeing, quad biking and even horseback riding in some of the islands. Visiting the Ssese islands should be done in three days to experience the best of what the Islands have to offer.
Go shopping and Eat Out
Entebbe is a major shopping Centre with large supermarkets like Victoria shopping mall, Imperial Mall, Pearl Supermarket, Shoprite and many other smaller one built within the magnificent hotels and resorts. All these shopping malls have ATM Machines which accept Visa and MasterCard thus Tourist attractions in Entebbe.
If you want to taste some of Uganda’s local dishes as well as international ones, then you should check out 4 Points for their calming environment and Indian food. They even have a pool table and bar that is frequented by Entebbe’s expert community. Gately Inn Entebbe is one good open-air restaurant with beautiful gardens and all kinds of international dishes. For the best pizza, visit Bologna or hotel Anderita. Other pizza points include Arthur’s Café, Goretti’s Pizza. We can’t forget to mention Faze 3 for Indian and continental food. Faze 3 is built close to the airport and has some of the tastiest fried pork, chicken and tilapia.
The Entebbe Craft Village
This Craft village was built in 2002 and is believed to be one of the largest in Uganda. While visiting the craft village, you can buy wood carvings, bags, African fabrics, sandals, paintings, batiks, place mats, tableware, clothing’s, ornaments and jewellery. You can also buy the fabric and have it made and adjusted to your size if you are staying in town for a while.